It is no secret that widely differing, and sometimes conflicting, views exist on exactly what employee engagement looks like and how it is achieved.
It has been referred to as just plain old job satisfaction dressed up in 21st century language.
It has been likened to an updated version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with employee engagement at the top, and it also has been suggested that it is just another management tool to get employees working harder for the same pay.
Above all, the factors that actually drive employee engagement have gained a perhaps well-deserved reputation for being a slippery concept to pin down.
But the model of engagement put forward in this book is formed out of four key elements, none of which operates in isolation. While some components seem to be almost common sense, in reading this book, I was struck by how easy it is sometimes to fail to see the obvious.
The authors – Linda Holbeche and Geoffrey Matthews – argue that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and stress the importance of measuring engagement by using surveys. At the same time, they offer useful guidelines on effective survey types and designs as well as how to select providers and analyse data accurately.
But early on in the book, the authors make a very important statement, which, for me, sets it apart from its peers: “…We argue that engagement is a shared responsibility between the individual and the employer.” (p82 )
Throughout the book, the importance of treating workers as human beings rather than merely units of production is emphasised. The writers stress the need to move away from outmoded ideas of parent-child relationships into fully evolved mutual relationships built on a firm foundation of trust.
There is a realistic understanding of the challenges involved in attempting to create a culture of engagement in the face of barriers such as survey fatigue, disillusionment due to past failure to deliver as well as management opposition, and there is an excellent and timely chapter on engagement in tough economic times.
Mandatory reading for all line managers should also be the section about one’s own engagement levels and situation.
This book is very readable and comprehensive. Despite the huge body of works from which it draws, the authors haven’t bogged the reader down in footnotes but have been content to simply name their sources and move on.
There is also an extensive bibliography and the book contains a number of valuable case studies. I believe that anyone who reads this book will gain, as I did, a very clear and well-rounded understanding of employee engagement.
My only niggle – and it is a small one – is that, at times, I felt as though the authors were dealing solely with massive multi-nationals stocked with eager white-collar graduates. Having said that, there is, nonetheless, something here for everyone, from the tiniest of small-to-medium enterprises to the largest of public authorities.
Perhaps it is going too far to call this work a definitive guide, but it is without doubt a very well researched synthesis of resources.
Therefore, for the many HR practitioners and managers out there suffering from information overload, it may well be the only book that they need to read in this area. I am certainly recommending it to my chief executive and the management team anyway.
- This book was reviewed for us by Sally Tams is a HR and compliance manager at laptop repair specalist, ologic.
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